Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Raw Veggie Wrap Hold The Yum

I didn't hold the yum, exactly, it's more that I was out of yum. By "yum," I mean to say "blue cheese dressing."

So here were my veggie wraps:

whole-wheat flour tortilla
raw mushrooms
raw mini-peppers
mix of Italian cheeses

Put the veggies on the tortilla and microwave about 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you have a delicious dressing, put some of that on for extra yum.

Naturally, you can use other veg, depending on what you have.

Tomorrow, I begin Story A Day May on my blog. Stop in and see what I come up with!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Tuber by any other name - By Joyce Lavene

A tuber by any other name
By Joyce Lavene
From A Thyme to Die
Book Six in the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries

Jerusalem artichokes have been around almost as long as anyone can remember. No one seems to know why they had the Jerusalem title slapped on them. The plants are native to North America. Native Americans called them sun roots before French explorers discovered them in 1605 and gave them their unique, but misleading name. They aren't related to artichokes at all. 

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the little tubers became more popular when someone thought to give them another name. Now they are ‘sunchokes’ and everyone likes them much better!

Sunchokes are easy to grow, or you can buy them at your local grocery or produce market. They look like sunflowers with small heads and ten foot stalks. They will yield a rich harvest of tubers just under the ground each year. They like sunny places. The tubers can be harvested in the fall, usually after the first frost.

The tubers are like potatoes but better. They aren’t as starchy and have a wonderful nutty flavor. They are smaller than most potatoes and a lot more gnarly but well worth ignoring their ugly exterior.

My family has always enjoyed them with butter and salt and pepper, like potatoes.
You can also dress them up with a little olive oil and slices of garlic. You’ll love the taste!

For enough to feed a family group, you’ll need about two pounds of clean sunchokes. Chop or slice the sunchokes and arrange on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Coat them well with olive oil, add salt and pepper and toss with sliced garlic. Roast the sunchokes in the oven for about 40 minutes or until brown outside and soft inside.


Joyce Lavene
A Thyme to Die - coming Mother's Day
Sunday May 12th!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Okay...as far as fall and winter go, I'm ready to leave most of it behind me. But then I found this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Cake. I love pumpkin cake...bread...muffins.... I know it's traditionally a fall flavor, but still...we shouldn't just put pumpkin away with the snow shovel. Should we?

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 can (15 ounces) sold pack pumpkin


Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan. Heat oven to 325°.In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Slowly beat in the dry mixture, alternating with the sour cream and pumpkin. Beat until well blended, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times.Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger. Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar or ice with an orange tinted glaze or thin icing.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking One for the Team

I do not eat donuts very often. They are full of fat, loaded with sugar and irresistably scrumptious with a cup of coffee!

My willpower had met its demise! Calli's softball team is selling Krispy Kreme cards for a fundraiser.  I HAVE to get some donuts now! Anything for my little girl, even if it means eating some yummy glazed donuts. Oh the sacrifices a mother must make!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Love In Bloom

Guess what this is:
Okay, I'll tell you: It's little teeny baby blueberries!

Last year, we had an early spring and then a HARD FROST that nipped those little babies in the bud. This year (knock wood, fingers crossed), the spring was late enough that the frosts have been fairly mild. With luck, we'll have loads of big, juicy blueberries right off our back porch! You can't eat much more local than that!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, blueberries -- I mean, recipes

Monday, April 22, 2013

Candied Flower Petals by Joyce Lavene

A Thyme to Die

A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery
By Joyce and Jim Lavene

This time of year, I always think about candied flower petals.

Maybe that sounds strange, but I have two daughters with birthdays and many of the best flower petals are available in the spring. Candied violets, rose petals are edible and make beautiful decorations on cakes and other desserts. They aren't as hard to make as you might think and they keep for a long time.

Here's my recipe:

Always carefully rinse and dry flower petals before using them.

Separate an egg white and beat lightly with a fork then add a few drops of water. Beat together until the egg white has bubbles in it. In a separate shallow bowl, place about 1/2 cup of superfine sugar, also known as caster sugar. This is nothing more than granulated sugar that has been refined so you can do it in your blender at home, if you have one that will grind that fine.
Using a small paint brush, dip the brush into the egg white and paint the flower with it. Sprinkle the caster sugar gently over the petals. Place the petals on waxed paper to dry.
Petals must dry completely or they won't last. This could take 24 hours so plan in advance. Store the petals in an airtight container until ready to use.

I like candied violets best for their color, but roses and apple blossoms will work. Geranium's are good too!

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cake in a Jar?

Check out this cool idea! The Girl With A Curl blog featured these jar cakes  that are baked in 1/2 pint mason jars. In the blog posting, there are links to recipes for the Swirled Nutella and the Blueberry Coffeecake cake in a jar. I'm guessing you could use just about any cake recipe you'd like.

Wouldn't these make the cutest bake sale or gift cakes? Read the post at The Girl With A Curl and let me know what you think! :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

International Children's Book Day

I am getting ready for a celebration! This morning I am going put to Joneborough Library where I will be reading and signing BURTON THE SNEEZING COW as part of their observance of this special day.
How how you celebrate International Children's Book Day?  Perhaps you could re-read your favorite children's book while enjoying a kid- inspired snack (apple with peanut- butter, lemonaide, cookies, etc.).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Babies For The Garden

Yes, we have achieved sprouting! As soon as all danger of frost is past, these babies go into containers we'll have prepared for them, away from marauding turtles and creeping blights. We'll have to keep an eye out for tomato hornworms ~~pardon me while I shudder delicately~~ and soon -- well, rather a long time from now -- we'll have TOMATOES!!!

We never eat tomatoes out of season, because: Why?

So we'll be sitting around, drooling, napkins tied around our necks, forks and knives in hands, waiting for July 4. If we don't have a ripe one by July 4, the green 'uns is mine! Oh, how I love fried green tomatoes!

What's your favorite tomato recipe or preparation?

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hot Pepper Pie by J.J. Cook

Hot Pepper Pie
from That Old Flame of Mine
Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries
by J.J. Cook

We were at a book event last week when a man who bought one of our books looked through the recipes in back and said, "You don't have hot pepper pie in here."

Hmm . . .

Well there aren't a lot of recipes in the back of a mystery book. That was my first thought. It's mostly the mystery.

The man, who introduced himself as an ex-fireman, said hot pepper pie was a staple at the small fire station he'd worked at in the early 1990s. It was in a small town in Mississippi where there was always a bumper crop of jalapenos.

"Hot pepper pie is easy to make and keeps well too. Put that into the recipes in the back of your new book!"

We didn't want to argue with a reader so we said thanks and wrote down the recipe.

Finely chop about six jalapenos. 
Kosher Sliced Jalapeno Pepper

Add 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix together with four eggs, lightly beaten.

This is for an 8 inch pie shell and top. Our firefighter friend said to pour the mixture into the pie shell, put the top on it and bake at about 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

"Cut into squares and serve hot," he recommended.

Well, we haven't tried the recipe yet but it sounds good! Maybe it will be in the back of the next Sweet Pepper book, PLAYING WITH FIRE.

Thanks, Frank!

Joyce Lavene
writing as J.J. Cook

That Old Flame of Mine
Available Now online and at stores near you

Friday, April 12, 2013

Food Safety Regulations

Do you think the FDA needs to implement tighter security regulations to food manufacturers? According to this HuffPost article by Joe Satran, "Food Safety Modernization Act Testing Requirement Axed In White House Review," the FDA's most recent food safety proposal was forced to eliminate obligatory microbiological testing.

Satran explains, "As food politics guru Marion Nestle pointed out in a blog post about the changes, it's not too late for the FDA to add a testing requirement to the regulations before they're finalized. The agency is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 15, so if you want them to require food manufacturers to test their facilities and products for pathogens, speak up soon."

Please see the article for further information.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cookie Pops

To raise money for their children's program, our local library is having a bake sale. My contribution will be cookie pops.
These cute treats are made with sugar cookie dough and Dum-Dum suckers. Simply prepare sugar cookie dough from a mix or your own recipe. Make little balls out of the dough and press sucker into middle of dough. Bake according to cookie directions.
To make things easy:
1) use refrigerated cookie dough
2) line cookie sheet with parchment paper

For the sale, I will put plastic food storage bags over the cookie pops and tie them with colorful ribbon. The price (50 cents per pop) will be on card stock, attatched to the ribbon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We Call It Crack

It's Soda Cracker Chocolate Candy, but we call it Crack for short. Not short for Cracker, but because it's freakin' ADDICTIVE.

Here's a recipe from Taste of Home Recipes:

  • Prep: 15 min. Bake: 10 min. + cooling
  • Yield: 30 Servings
  • 35 to 40 soda crackers
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place crackers in rows on foil. In a saucepan, melt butter; add the brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes. Pour over crackers and spread until completely covered. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes (crackers will float). Remove from the oven. Turn oven off. Sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts over crackers. Return to the oven until chocolate is melted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven; using a greased spatula, press walnuts into chocolate. Cut into 1 in. squares while warm. Cool completely; remove candy from foil. Yield: about 5 dozen.
Nutritional Facts 1 serving (2 each) equals 173 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 16 mg cholesterol, 108 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Enjoy! And don't say I didn't warn you!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, April 8, 2013

What makes hot sauce hot and why people eat it. By J.J. Cook

What makes hot sauce hot? How do we taste 'hot'?
From That Old Flame of Mine
By J. J. Cook
Book #1 in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

We spent some time with hot pepper enthusiasts last week at The Pepper Palace in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This is the place to go if you love hot peppers, or you're flirting with the idea of trying some of the really hot ones. There were many people trying the ghost pepper for the first time.

Some people try to take it in stages - starting with the peppers that aren't so hot and going to those that are really hot. Their expressions are funny sometimes, terrible others when the heat hits them.

Hot sauce is made from chili peppers, most a mixture of cayenne, jalapeno and habanero peppers. There are some that only come from one type of pepper. They all have one thing in common - peppers contain capsaicinoids. These chemicals occur naturally and actually act on the same nerve fibers that feel heat from the stove or microwave.

The irritation from peppers is different because it also acts on the eyes, in the nose, and on the skin. That's why companies use peppers for repellent spray and as an ingredient in muscle relaxers. This can be anywhere from a warming sensation to a heat that is too hot to handle!

Why do people eat peppers?

"I like the experience," Bill from Indiana told us at The Pepper Palace. Tears were running down his red face. "It's mind blowing."

Another visitor to The Pepper Palace was Dave Wright from Myrtle Beach. Dave was there to try the ghost pepper sauce (naga jolokia), one of the hottest peppers in the world. Dave had a great tattoo of a hot pepper on his arm. Truly a pepper lover.

"Peppers are good for you,"he said before taking a bite of the ghost pepper sauce. "They clean you out."

Dave took a bite of the ghost pepper sauced and didn't go running to the bathroom like so many others. He sniffed a few times and his wife wiped tears from his eyes and sweat from his brow.

"Yeah." His voice was hoarse. "That was hot! Whoo!"

In other words, people eat the hottest peppers in the world for the same reason they climb mountains and ride roller coasters - the thrill.

Me, I like my hot peppers a little at a time, smothered in cream cheese and spread on a cracker. I only ride the kid's roller coasters too!

J.J. Cook

Friday, April 5, 2013

Make Ahead Breakfasts

Look what I found at iVillage--Freezable, Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes! Pictured are the Maple Cream Cheese Cornmeal Pancake Stacks. The Baked Oatmeal Bars also look yummy. I haven't tried the recipes yet, but it seems like an easy way to have a homecooked breakfast for your family on a busy weekday morning!

What is your favorite quick, go-to morning meal?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Grandmother's House we Go

My girls and are leaving for Kentucky this morning to visit my grandmother (Mamaw to us). She and my mom made me fall in love with cooking. Who sparked your interest in food?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What The Heck Is A Persian Pickle?

That's what I asked when I picked up a used copy of Sandra Dallas' THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB. The book is set in Depression-era Kansas, and I soon learned that "Persian pickle" was what they called paisley.

The club members (or, as the narrator refers to herself and her friends,The Pickles) have a lot in common, of course, but they're also very different. They may not always agree, but they hold ranks if any one of them is attacked. They can keep secrets for each other -- and from each other.

I told my mother, I'm loving this book. The Depression was before my time, but I remember a lot of the ways and expressions, films, music and foods from the old folks and the old-fashioned in my childhood.

Ah, the foods! Listen to this description of Perfection Salad:

The perfection salad sat in the place of honor in the c enter of the table, the celery and carrots sparkling like five-and-dime jewels, and when I moved aside, a beam of sunshine shot through the window, causing the clear gelatin to shimmer. It was so pretty that Nettie drew in her breath, then threw her arms around Mrs. Judd. "Oh, Septima, I never saw a thing as lovely as that."

Makes you ashamed of ever going, "Ho-hum, not boring old thing again."

To read more about THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB, visit Sandra Dallas' web site. There's been some talk about making a movie. That seems to have fallen by the wayside, but the movie's web site has some very nice recipes and information.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tabasco sauce - or is it? By J. J. Cook

Making hot (Tabasco) sauce

According to Wikipedia, Tabasco sauce is a hot sauce made from a particular type of pepper, Capsicum frutescens of the Tabasco variety. The peppers are mixed with vinegar and salt and the liquid is hot and spicy. Tabasco is a brand name, I should mention, (like Kleenex is tissues and Coke is a soft drink).

Anyway, basically this is hot sauce that you can make yourself. You won't have the mystique of the name and the bottle, but it will taste as good.

You'll need a bottle or jar with a good top that seals, like a Mason jar. You'll also need about twenty chili peppers (red or green, your choice). You'll need two tablespoons of sea salt and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Take all the ingredients and put them in the blender together until everything is well mixed. It should look look like tomato sauce. Pour the ingredients into a saucepan and let it come to a boil then let it simmer for a few minutes on low heat. Add this mixture to your bottle or jar and cap tightly. Let it sit to ferment for at least two weeks. Real Tabasco sauce ferments for a few years.

You can try various kinds of peppers in this mixture to raise or lower the heat index.

WARNING: When working with hot peppers, protect your hands. Also, don't breathe in fumes while the mixture is in the blender or while it is cooking!

Watch a video on the making of Tabasco sauce.

What can you use hot sauce on? What CAN'T you use it on?

Eggs, burgers, cheese sauce, French fries, hot dogs - you name it. 

J.J. Cook

I will be in Tennessee next week on the Quest for the Sweetest, Hottest Pepper in the World Book Tour. 

April 3rd, 4th and 5th ~ Quest for the hottest, sweetest pepper in the world tour in Tennessee for That Old Flame of Mine by J.J. Cook including stock signings at B&N and Books-A-Million.

On Wednesday, we will be in Gatlinburg at The Pepper Palace to begin our search for the hottest, sweetest peppers in the world! We've heard this is the best place for the hot stuff!

We will delivering some free copies of That Old Flame of Mine to the King Family Library in Sevierville. We heard the librarians there have a secret spot to shop for their hot peppers!

We will also be visiting some of the HOT spots in Pigeon Forge to continue our search!
On Thursday morning, we will be popping in at a few pepper hide outs in Knoxville before continuing to Union Avenue Books to talk about That Old Flame of Mine and distribute some of our hot pepper goodies that we have found on the way! Look for us there at noon!

We are driving to Nashville after that to visit the replica of the Parthenon where the Goddess Athena herself (a devoted lover of hot peppers) will give us some tips on where to find the sweetest, hottest peppers in the world!

After that, we will be at the LAUNCH EVENT for That Old Flame of Mine at Mysteries and More Bookstore in Nashville with some free books and other surprises.